Ms. Carra Purvis joins MSA with more than 20 years’ experience as a non-profit professional for grassroots and faith-based organizations across the country. Until her family moved to her husband’s childhood home near Enterprise last year, Ms. Purvis served in Augusta, GA as the Director of Development for the Augusta Symphony; in Seattle, WA as the director of a faith based non-profit; and, in New Orleans, LA for a mission organization.
Ms. Purvis brings a unique perspective to the work at The Symphony as she has a strong background in the arts – a bachelor’s degree in Music from William Carey University; classical training in vocal performance and dance; and, a lifetime of music appreciation from her mother, a classically trained pianist and music educator, and her grandfather, a professional string musician.
“I grew up literally surrounded by music. I found instruments in every corner of our house, sheet music on almost every surface, and great family memories set to a backdrop of some of the best music a child could ever hope to hear, much of which was played live regardless of our location. It is with great pleasure that I join the team of consummate professionals at the Meridian Symphony. What a dream come true to couple my work and my love for the arts with an organization so strongly supported and embraced by a community which values the arts and is rich in music history.”
Marketing Manager & Executive Assistant
A native of Meridian and a daughter of a music educator, Kaylila Pasha has grown up influenced by the cultural and educational impact of the Meridian Symphony Association within the community. Ms. Pasha joins the team as a former MSA intern and frequent collaborator through her boutique digital marketing agency, Kaylila Creative.
Ms. Pasha is a graduate of Oklahoma City University, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She has served at several nonprofits, including the MSU Riley Center for Education & Performing Arts, Any Given Child Meridian, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, WaterTower Theatre, and the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation. Passionate about live performance art, Ms. Pasha is a professional actor, theatre director, and the Co-Founder & Director of Common Stage Theatre Lab.
Dr. Kristen Johnson Gunn
Choral Director, Meridian Symphony Chorus
Meridian native Dr. Kristen Johnson Gunn has assumed duties as choral director of the Meridian Symphony Chorus. Gunn previously served on the music faculty at Mississippi College, where since 2008 she was associate professor of voice and coordinator of musical theatre and opera productions.
Gunn received her Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance from Mississippi College (2003) and her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Voice (Opera) from Florida State University (2006; 2008).
During the past 20 years, Gunn has acquired much experience and praise as both singer and teacher. She held the title of Mississippi and Southern Regional NATSAA (National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist Awards) winner for 2014 which allowed her to represent the Southern region at the NATS national conference in Boston, Massachusetts (July 2014). While in Boston, Gunn was chosen as a national finalist where she successfully completed and was announced as winner of the sixth place prize, the Louis T. Nicholas Award.
During the past 10 years, Gunn has often been featured on the stages of Mississippi Opera, several of Mississippi’s colleges and universities and the Meridian Symphony Orchestra. Past performances include: Micaela (Meridian Symphony’s concert version of Bizet’s Carmen in 2007), Gabriel (Meridian Symphony’s 2008 production of Haydn’s Creation), Fiordiligi (Mississippi Opera’s 2013 production of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte), Santuzza (Mississippi Opera’s 2015 production of Mascagni’s Cavelleria Rusticana), and many other concert and cabaret performances with these companies and others. In addition to being an active performer throughout the state of Mississippi, Gunn has also performed on stages in Italy (2004 & 2008), Belgium (2009), South Africa (2014) and New York’s Lincoln Center (2012).
Accompanist, Meridian Symphony Chorus
David Benson is organist-choirmaster at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Meridian. He is also the accompanist and arranger for the Meridian Symphony Chorus. David was the founder and director of Melrose Music Theatre in Gainesville, Florida, for over two decades. David and his wife Jo, a public school music teacher of many years, met at their alma mater, Stetson University. They have two children and one granddaughter.